Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Villa Adriana (Hadrian's Villa)

Canopus Statue
Villa Adriana Canopus

We were based in Tivoli (location) for several nights on the start of a one month trip in Italy, November 2010. One of the reasons for choosing Tivoli was the desire to visit Villa Adriana or Hadrian’s Villa in English. If you are staying in Tivoli you should be aware that Villa Adriana (location) is several miles to the west of Tivoli in the plain as you come down the mountain and head for Rome. It’s really not a practical option to walk to Villa Adriana from Tivoli center (which we were hoping for). There are buses that can take your there, but we drove and it took about 10 minutes (Tivoli traffic!). Don’t try and take a backside-short cut from upper to lower Tivoli via a street called “Strada degli Orti” to “Via degli Stablimenti” (which has a tunnel) because that may not work. The tunnel was closed when were were there. Following the main road “Via Tiburtina” really is the easy and least stressful way to go back and forth to Tivoli. (Though, for those inclined you can sneak in another way, via E80 and exit Castel Madama and come in the east side. It’s slightly longer but can be more relaxing.)

Villa Adriana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact on this month long trip we would see many UNESCO sites, a sort of UNESCO-tour of Italy. What does it mean to be an UNESCO World Heritage site? It means that a site – which could be a building, a city, a forest, or in general, a place – has special cultural or physical significance. More specifically, a site must be of outstanding universal value and meet one of ten selection criteria. Villa Adriana meets the first three criteria in that it:

(i) represents a masterpiece of human creative genius;

(ii) exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;

(iii) bears a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or has disappeared;

The 200+ acres Villa Adriana was in essence a town that started out as a retreat and later became the imperial court of Hadrian (76 – 138), a celebrated Roman Emperor during the Roman Empire, post-Republican period of Rome. Hadrian’s interest in architecture and wide travel experience (he spent much of his time travelling the empire) influenced many of the design aspects of the villa. The photo most often seen of Villa Adriana is of the pool and artificial grotto named Canopus and Serapeum, respectively. The former was an Egyptian city where a serapeum (temple) was dedicated to the god Serapis. The type of round dome that caps the grotto was reported to be referred to in a derogatory manner as a “pumpkin” by a prominent architect during Hadrian’s time. Said architect was later exiled and killed – or so the story goes. Oh well.

To visit Villa Adriana you should plan on spending 4 to 6 hours. Don’t cheat yourself. Also, purchase the audio guide; it will help you make sense of what you are seeing.

Villa Adriana Brochure
Villa Adriana Brochure

Villa Adriana Brochure

Villa Adriana Pecile

Villa Adriana Large Pool
Canopus Pool

Teatro Marittimo
Teatro Marittimo

Terme Con Heliocaminus
Terme con Heliocaminus

Grand Terme
Villa Adriana Grand Terme

Canopus Grotto - Serapeum

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